Critique my bin!!

ozzz(5b AZ)November 2, 2011

Hey everyone, Ive had a bin going now for over a year easily and I dont think Im feeding them properly. Ive read a ton on the subject and the topic of how MUCH to feed always comes up, but not how often.

I started about a year ago or so with one pound of worms. Initially I used an 18 gallon rubbermaid tote. I put all kinds of stuff in there and they seemed to do good. Used potting soil, pine firs, veggie scraps, Vegetable plants, etc, etc.

About six months later I put another 18 gallon bin on top and drilled holes in the bottom hoping the worms would migrate up. They did... kind of, but there was still a ton of them in the bottom. Long story short I didnt like the way the bins looked and stacked. They didnt set on each other evenly. So I took the whole thing and divided it up into 5 gallon buckets. The 5 gallon buckets fit together much nicer.

Heres my main concern and question. Bascially I only feed them when I think about it. I really neglect them. The bin never dries out and they always seem to be alive in there. Sometimes Ill go over a month without adding anything, other times I add stuff often every other day for awhile, then I dont do anything for a month or two again.

Is this ok? Or should I add stuff on a regular basis to the bin? Also, how often should I add new bedding?

I think this 5 gallon bucket setup will help tremendously. The bottom bucket has no holes to catch the leachate, then the upper 4 buckets have holes in the bottoms. When I harvest the bottom bucket, Ill re-bed it and put fresh food in it and replace it on the top of the stack. The middle four buckets are in varying degrees of completion.

Does this sound ok? Im wondering if instead of 5 buckets, if I should do two towers of three buckets each. One that is ready to be harvested, one intermidate bucket, and one on top with fresh bedding.

Please critique my bin. I think going to two stacks of three buckets (plus the leachate bucket) is best. My main problem Im sure is that Im neglecting them, not feeding them enough organic matter, and not providing fresh bedding regularly enough.

Any input on how ofen you feed your bins and how you maintain them would be great. Thanks!!!

Ill get some pics posted up a little later.

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I'm not sure how the bins on the bottom are getting air.
Do the worms look happy?
If so then they probably are.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2011 at 5:06PM
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I built mine similarly. I have
1) Solid bucket - catches leachate, saves the carpet. I have to check and empty this periodically.
2) First worm bucket, holes drilled for drainage.
3) Two bucket "spacers". I cut the bottom 2/3 off two buckets to create a two bucket "lift" between the first worm bucket and the top bucket.
4) Top bucket. Placed when the bottom bucket has reached the point where it will come into contact with the bottom of the top bucket.

I feed fast. I feed slow. The worms seem to have been able to tolerate about 2 gallons at a time if they have somewhere to get away from the fresh ("fresh" being a relative term - normally it means aged a couple of weeks under the sink) food. Once the top bucket is filled to the top with food and enough bedding to keep odor down it could sit for a few weeks to a month before it gets worked down and there is actually room to add more fresh food.

Here is a link that might be useful: My bucket system

    Bookmark   January 8, 2012 at 11:35AM
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Worms thrive on neglect. They don't expect three square meals a day. I'm sure your feeding schedule is fine. I would add bedding with every feeding. Buckets are kinda small. I would have stuck with the bigger totes, but if the buckets are working, then they are working. They have got to be easier to handle than the totes were.

When I had my worms, I had two bins and one extra tray. One of my bins had the extra tray on it to encourage the worms to migrate up. When I harvested that bin, the harvested bin became the extra tray on the other bin. Whether you have 3 trays or 5 trays may not matter.

I would just keep doing what you are doing, except maybe not letting them go unfed for more than a couple of weeks at a time.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2012 at 3:32PM
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Plus not feeding them for a few weeks when they were being fed blenderized food every day is different than not feeding them for a few weeks when they were being fed whole pumpkins, un chopped brocolli stalks, corn cobs, sprouted potatoes, and dented apples. These things will continue to break down slowly over a period of months.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2012 at 6:53PM
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I actually have 3 stacks. Two are as I described the third is a curing or finishing stack with only two buckets, the catch bucket at the worm bucket. I do feed the curing stack making it more of a "fattening" stack :)

I also managed to sneak a two bucket system into the office. It doesn't get fed very often, but the vc is beautiful.

I've been running my system this way for a couple of years now and have had enough worms to set up four others for friends and family.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2012 at 7:38PM
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ozzz, I think it is important to realize there is virtually no limit to the ways people can vermiculture. Buckets, bins, tiered systems...they all work, and they all have their own limitations. I have four 30 gallon plastic tubs, and no two are exactly alike even though they operate with the same type of media (peat moss), and get fed twice a week. The choice of blended foods will vary somewhat, but other than that all things are similar.

My simple rule of thumb for this system is two, thirty gallon plastic tubs per household member will match the food scraps available for feeding. I do however supplement with garden scraps as needed. These scraps I keep in five gallon buckets in my shed. When I finish a bucket I bring in a new bucket, allow it to partially thaw, and chop the ingredients with a sharp shovel. This material will begin decomposing quickly and the bucket will need to be covered with a lid.

Unlike a lot of people, I have three basic rules for my indoor vermicompost bins: No holes, no lid, and I keep a light on 24/7.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2012 at 4:48AM
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morgan-3: not having a lid for your indoor bins, don't you get flying insect problems in summer?

    Bookmark   January 10, 2012 at 8:33AM
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"My simple rule of thumb for this system is two, thirty gallon plastic tubs per household member will match the food scraps available for feeding."

This seems like a lot of capacity per person. While my worms don't quite keep up, I'm at about 4 gallons per person. I think for my worms to keep up with our output, another stack might be sufficient. That would put me at about 30 gal capacity for 5 people. (No way would I be able to talk my wife into 150 gal capacity)

Do you have a large amount of scrap output - ie vegan or vegetarian diet? Significant amounts of paper or cardboard waste?

    Bookmark   January 15, 2012 at 11:33AM
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Nice thing about vermicomposting, there are about 1000 ways to do it 'right'.
Sometimes, I think we get overly concerned over the minutia trying to make things 'perfect'.
ozzz, I think what you are doing is just fine.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2012 at 12:11AM
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maden_theshade(8 - Austin)

I love the stacked pickle bucket design! I've been looking for something I could put in my garage during the winter! Thanks for posting a link to your blog!

    Bookmark   March 18, 2012 at 12:40AM
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Things I like about the Patrick1969 bucket system:

Using pre-used buckets.
Looks like an air space was cut into the lids.
Aging buckets where "The remaining worms will be relocated to the more active buckets."
"bucket tops are cut off to make spacer rings." Really like that.
Do you find when seperating buckets that worms are on the outside of the inner buckets and have left castings?

    Bookmark   March 20, 2012 at 10:06AM
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When I lift off a bucket to check the lower level there are invariably worms hanging out of the holes in the sides of the top buckets. I have one stack that is so full of worms right now that when I lift it off, the side of the bucket looks like it has red stripes :)
There are castings all along the outside of the buckets as well where the worms have poked through the 1/8" holes and made their deposits.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2012 at 12:50PM
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Also, I changed up the order of one of my stacks. I started out with solid, habitat, spacer, spacer, habitat. The bottom habitat bucket continues to get worked over and the level sinks down. I was adding some bedding and scraping VC to build the VC level up the to next bucket mounding it up so it would make contact. For one of the stacks I decided to move a spacer from the middle to the top so it's: solid, habitat, spacer, habitat, spacer. This actually gives more room to add feedings on top and I don't have to mound the VC in the lower bucket. I do have to remember that the top "bucket" is just a spacer so I have to lift the second bucket down or I end up with unprocessed food everywhere - ew! :)

Here is a link that might be useful: Building the 5 bucket worm stack - video

    Bookmark   April 8, 2012 at 1:01PM
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Mainly it's a matter of assessing what is good worm habitat. You're looking to avoid extremes of temperature and too wet/dry, and you want to be alert to bad smells -- anaerobic bacteria. Otherwise, as long as the worms are eating and making compost you should be fine.

I do try and add cardboard at least weekly -- it's easy to keep a stack of those dividers used in liquor cartons, and tear one or two up into the bins. If it gets hot in summer it's worth checking in more often, because problems can develop quickly.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2012 at 9:21PM
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